Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the Budget address to the Legislature at the State House in Augusta, Feb. 11, 2019. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday submitted a bill that would change Maine law on who can perform abortions.

The proposed legislation, which is sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, would allow a physician assistant, an advanced practice registered nurse, certified nurse-midwives or other medical professional to perform the procedure.

Current law limits the legal ability to perform abortions to physicians, and this law would overturn a state law that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood challenged in a 2017 lawsuit. A virtually identical bill backed by Mills as attorney general during the 2018 legislative session went nowhere.

The move won early praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and other abortion rights groups, but it is likely to be opposed by anti-abortion groups as an expansion of abortion access.

The groups want to lift the provision to allow qualified nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, who often serve as women’s primary and gynecological care providers, to perform abortions. That would include abortion procedures in a clinic as well as terminating pregnancies with medication.

Maine is home to three publicly accessible health centers where women can get abortions in a clinic setting: Planned Parenthood’s location in Portland, the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, and a Maine Family Planning clinic in Augusta. If Mills’ bill become law, that number could increase to 18, the groups said.

The bill was referred Thursday to the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services, which will schedule a public hearing and begin the process of formulating a recommendation to the full Legislature.